Three major American charities collectively poured more than $10 million into Chinese government entities, universities and groups controlled by members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) between 2017 and 2022, tax documents show.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation together donated about $10.2 million directly to the Chinese government and to organizations headed by top-ranking CCP members, according to tax disclosures. Chinese beneficiaries of the American philanthropies include state-run universities that collaborate with the People’s Liberation Army, as well as government ministries.
For example, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment $400,000 between 2021 and 2022 for “capacity building” and “research” related to China’s “green” foreign investments, tax forms show. The Ford Foundation gave the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security $27,878 in 2014 to tour the United States for economic research and the Ministry of Agriculture $20,000 in 2018 to conduct urbanization research, according to tax filings.
“The CCP’s economic warfare uses any and all available leverage to coerce us,” Chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP Rep. Mike Gallagher told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We need to stop fueling our own destruction.”
‘Xi Jinping’s Thoughts’
Many of the donations made by American charities went to Chinese academic institutions that work with the Chinese government and the CCP.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), one of the biggest recipients of donations from the trio of liberal foundations, received $530,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, $706,000 from the Ford Foundation and $265,000 from the MacArthur Foundation between 2017 and 2022.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave CAS funding for environmental initiatives, while the Ford Foundation funded its research examining China’s investments in the global south “from a gender perspective” and on urban poverty in the country. The MacArthur Foundation’s grants, meanwhile, supported CAS’ Kunming Institute of Botany and funded ecological research.
Hou Jianguo, a CCP member, is the president of CAS.
Jianguo wrote in 2020 that CAS “will be guided by Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for [a] new era” in the Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He also served as the the organization’s Communist Party secretary before becoming its president, according to the South China Morning Post.
CAS operates under the leadership of China’s State Council, which is the “executive body of the supreme organ of state power” and the Party Central Committee, which is the top policy making body of the CCP. The State Council itself is largely composed of members of the CCP.
The U.S. Commerce Department in December 2022 added CAS’ Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) to its list of entities supporting the Chinese military and defense industry. The ICT was founded by CAS in 1959 and “holds firmly to the new-era guidelines of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,” according to the institute’s website.
“It’s telling that the areas where China seems to be soliciting foreign foundation funding—especially from a country like the US which places a premium on free speech—is in its university sector,” Sarah Lee, director of communications at the Capital Research Center, told the DCNF.
“President Xi’s recent tightened control over China’s universities makes it disappointing that an American foundation like Ford would potentially underwrite Chinese state propaganda as its home country continues to compete with China in the areas of innovation and trade,” she continued.
Peking University and Tsinghua University received about $2.2 million and $4.9 million, respectively, from the trio of charities. The North China Institute of Aerospace Engineering, meanwhile, received $60,000 from the Ford Foundation in 2017 for economic research.
The Ford Foundation provided the bulk of the donations to China’s state-run universities, giving roughly $2 million to Tsinghua to improve the capacity of Chinese NGOs to operate internationally, hold climate change seminars and undertake poverty research, among other things. It gave Peking University about $4.8 million for operations such as conducting economic research, influencing the global south, working toward reducing urban poverty in China, researching government capacity during times of crisis and advancing the university’s African initiatives.
The MacArthur Foundation, meanwhile, gave Peking University $78,000 for ecological research. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave Tsinghua $180,000 for carbon emissions research.
All three universities funded by American charities are considerably involved in Chinese defense research.
Tsinghua hosts at least eight different defense research laboratories, including labs focused on artificial intelligence and missile guidance systems, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) translation of the university’s website. Tsinghua also launched a joint computer science program with the People’s Liberation Army in 2020, according to ASPI’s translation of a university web page.
Researchers discovered in 2018 that Tsinghua’s tech infrastructure had also been used to launch an espionage campaign against the Alaska state government, the Financial Times reported.
Peking University, similarly to Tsinghua, hosts four different defense labs, according to ASPI’s translation of the university’s website. The labs conduct research in areas related to radiation, microelectronics and “high energy density physics” simulations.
Peking University signed a cooperation agreement with the Chinese navy in 2013, according to ASPI. The university agreed to work with the Chinese Navy on research, training, construction and exerting cultural soft power, alongside other areas, according to an archived webpage detailing the agreement.
The North China Institute of Aerospace Engineering, meanwhile, hosts two defense labs and has a close relationship with the Chinese missile manufacturing industry, per ASPI.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, a pair of state-owned defense companies that dominate missile and satellite tech in China, signed a joint agreement to support the North China Institute of Aerospace Engineering in 2003, according to ASPI. Since then, the university and the two Chinese defense conglomerates have worked closely in research and product development, according to an archived copy of the university’s website.
Some groups that are not explicitly part of the Chinese government but are nonetheless directed by members of the CCP also received financial backing from American charities.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund donated over $1 million to the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) for “policy research” between 2020 and 2022.
CCICED provides the Chinese government with advice on environmental policy and development, according to the organization’s website. The organization was founded in 1992 with the approval of the Chinese government.
In addition to funneling money to the Chinese government, the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and MacArthur Foundation also fund domestic liberal activists.
The MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Ford Foundation are not the only liberal-aligned U.S. charities transferring money directly to the Chinese government.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged about $24 million in grants to Chinese government organizations in 2022, according to its tax forms.
The Ford Foundation defended its grantmaking to Chinese government organizations in a statement to the DCNF.
“The Ford Foundation’s work in China is designed to help ensure that China’s economic, political, and social impacts are equitable, both domestically and globally,” a spokesperson for the charity said. “The grants referenced help advance this aim, from studying the effects of urbanization on migrant laborers and the elderly to advancing the field of philanthropy in China.”
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the MacArthur Foundation did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
Robert Schmad on January 22, 2024